Region XII, commonly known as SOCCSKSARGEN (that’s South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City), might not yet be the most popular tourist destination, but there's so much to do here.
With news of conflict in parts of Mindanao, it is understandable that tourists might decide to stay away; it's the sad truth. However, as I've said before: "Mamasapano, Basilan, Sulu, or other places experiencing conflict do not equate to the whole of Mindanao." (READ: 9 spectacular places to visit in Mindanao)
Here are a few things to do:
1. White Water River Tubing (Maitum, Sarangani)
If water rafting is done with a rubber boat to which can be ridden by 4-6 people, Maitum's river tubing entails riding an old school salbabida (flotation device) which is somewhat attached to another salbabida ridden by a rafting guide. I actually find it a clever and cheaper alternative to rubber boats. It's like water rafting but way cooler! (READ: Splash! Wild river ride in Cagayan de Oro)
2. Visit Pacman and Mommy D's mansions (GenSan)
As this is the home of the famous boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, you might like to take a peek at where he stays, from the outside, at least. The Pacman 'mansion' looks simple on the outside but the compound has its own basketball court and a separate receiving hall.
Mommy D's house is not far from Manny's. It is situated in a simple subdivision. We would at least have liked to see her, but the guard told us that Mommy D had left earlier in the day.
We also dropped by Pacman's Wild Card Gym. It is located on the 3rd floor of his building across SM GenSan.
3. Cool down at Veranza Mall (GenSan)
It was scorching hot outside when we decided to check this mall out. There are high end brands as well as a Gap outlet. In case, this is not your cup of tea, Veranza is just across the KCC mall where I hear many locals do their grocery shopping. (READ: Perfect for summer: 8 cool-weather PH destinations)
4. Sunbathe at Gumasa Beach (Glan, Sarangani)
With its white sand beach, this island offers a sense of solitude, away from the crowd.
We stayed for a couple of hours in Coco Beach Resort where a cottage rental costs for as low as P200 and entrance fee is P30/head. Just be reminded to throw away your trash in the proper bins. Help locals preserve the beauty and cleanliness of this place.
5. Taste the famous buko halo-halo (Koronadal)
Don't miss out on tasting the famous Apareja's buko (coconut) halo-halo! A slightly different take on the traditional merienda (snack) that Filipinos love, this halo-halo is served in a fresh coconut topped with ube ice cream. Ensure that you also eat the coconut 'meat' to complete the experience.
It is also recommended on taking home some of their bukayo (a sweet dessert made from coconuts) as a pasalubong. I tried it myself and it is delicious!
6. Zipline at 7 Waterfalls (Lake Sebu, South Cotabato)
Sulit (worth it). For P250/head you can get to ride not one, but two ziplines.
Note that only falls one and two can be reached on foot and the remaining 5 waterfalls can be spotted when you ride the zipline. You won't only get a glimpse of the view of the magnificent waterfalls, but you can also get to experience the awesome feeling of flying.
One of the 7 waterfalls, been shot while riding a zipline
7. Relax at Lake Sebu (South Cotabato)
Try just quietly viewing the lake and you'll feel yourself calm down. There's something about Lake Sebu that make you feel relaxed. We stayed at Punta Isla, a 'lakefront' resort and the room they gave us was elevated, so we had a great view of the whole lake. (IN PHOTOS: 8 PH lakes to add to your travel bucket list)
Some of the resort accommodations offer fan rooms only as the cold breeze from the lake will often make up for the warm weather. Room for 4 people starts at P1,100. (READ: Mornings made better at Lake Sebu)
8. Go diving! (Maasim, Sarangani)
Now, this was our first time to dive...and we chose to do it in Sarangani Bay!
Well, it started out as a challenge, but the intro dive experience package in Lemlunay Resort was affordable (at P1,500/head for a 30-minute dive with diving gear).
We were amazed to see how rich the marine biodiversity of Sarangani Bay really was. It's rightfully one of the best diving spots in the country.
9. Nature trip at Sarangani Highlands (GenSan)
Don't let the name fool you. This resort is located in GenSan and not in Sarangani. I heard that the owners are from Sarangani so they named it after their hometown. Boasting a beautiful landscape and well-maintained gardens, this can be a haven for selfie addicts. Walang pangit na angle (there's no bad angle), I swear!
Highlands also has the most gorgeous view of Sarangani Bay and not to mention, the rooms are nice. Visit and see for yourself.
10. Food Trip!
Indulging in the local cuisine will give you a different perspective on food. I wanted to taste the dishes in every destination. From balbakua of Gamay's Eatery to the spicy dark chocolate of Kablon Farm, there are many dishes you shouldn't miss.
Travel Tip: Nearest jump-off point is at General Santos. From there, other provinces are at least 1.5 hours away.
In addition, durian and pineapple are abundant in the region (when in season) so take advantage of that as well.
There you have it, all the reasons to put these locations on your travel bucket list. The best part is, you can get to visit 3 to 4 destinations all at once. Travel MindaNOW na! – Rappler.com
Melody loves to travel and is a certified beach bum. She dreams of hosting her own travel show one day as nothing compares to being paid doing the thing you love. She began traveling in 2007 as a tourist and became a passionate traveler 3 years after, and just last year, she finally had the courage to start her own travel blog, The Bella Travelista.